ISRAELI troops are attacking the Gaza Strip, officials say as 9,000 reserve troops have been called up amid escalating violence against Hamas.
The Israel Defence Force (IDF) said soldiers on the ground had entered the Palestinian enclave after both sides have traded rocket attacks and air strikes since the weekend.
🔵 Read our Israel-Gaza live blog for the very latest updates…
“Israeli planes and troops on the ground are carrying out an attack in the Gaza Strip,” the army said in a brief message.
Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus confirmed that Israeli soldiers had entered the Palestinian enclave.
This comes as Israel has called up 9,000 reservists to reinforce their ground troops.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas calls for a ceasefire and instead warned military action will only “increase in force”.
Major airlines including BA have halted flights as the death toll rose again today amid escalating violence.
A total of 83 people are said to have died in air strikes in Palestinian-controlled Gaza.
And seven people in Israel have been killed by rockets fired by Hamas militants.
Victims included five-year-old Ido Avigal, who was fatally wounded by shrapnel on Wednesday night.
Mr Netanyahu today said he is considering locking people up under controversial “administrative detention” laws to stop further bloodshed.
He said: “We have no choice but to restore law and order via determined use of force.”
He was speaking in Lod, where a Jewish man was stabbed to death after days of rioting.
Yesterday disturbing video shows a mob battering a driver they thought was an Arab in Bat Yam.
Over 370 arrests have been made across the country as street clashes continue between Jewish and Arab citizens.
Israel says its targeted air strikes have “neutralised” half a dozen senior Hamas terrorists behind more than 1,000 rocket attacks since Monday.
Israeli PM Netanyahu said his army would only use “increasing force” as they look to significantly weaken the militant group.
He said: “We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning.
“We will inflict blows on them that they couldn’t even dream of.”
But Palestinian groups say women and children were killed in heavy bombing that wrecked scores of buildings and toppled two residential towers.
Doctors Without Borders, which is helping treat the wounded on the ground, said the heavy Israeli bombing is “pushing Gaza to the edge of catastrophe”.
As the bombardment continued for a fourth day, a ground operations plan has been drawn up ready to be approved by the government.
The IDF said their “marching orders” were to intensify operations despite Joe Biden and other world leaders calling for peace.
Lt Col Jonathan Conricus added: “We will continue to operate to attack their military infrastructure and prepare additional activities until they get the message.”
Israel has prepared combat troops along the Gaza border in “various stages of preparing ground operations”, a military spokesman said.
Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping. It is all moving in the right direction.
Israeli cabinet minister
Reports previously claimed Hamas has been “stockpiling enough rockets to bomb Israel for two months” – raising fears the region is on the brink of all-out war.
But Palestinian chiefs offered a truce last night, requesting ceasefire on a “mutual basis” via the Russian foreign ministry.
However, it was rebuffed as Israel claimed Hamas has killed seven of its citizens, including a child, in rockets attacks on populated areas such as Tel Aviv.
An Israeli cabinet minister revealed last night after a meeting with Netanyahu: “The campaign is still far from over. Whatever we don’t do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now.”
“When we have hit all our targets and the other side has still not surrendered, we will launch a ground operation even though we do not seek it,” he told Israeli news site Ynet.
“This will not end in the next few days,” the cabinet minister warned.
“Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping. It is all moving in the right direction. We will act until they admit that opening fire was a mistake, just as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did after the Second Lebanon War in 2006.”
The UN says it fears the conflict will lead to “full-scale war”.
Amid fears the violence could spiral further out of control, Washington planned to send an envoy, Hady Amr, for talks with Israel and Palestinians.
US President Joe Biden said he hoped fighting “will be closing down sooner than later”.
Hamas militants in Gaza have launched hundreds of rockets since Monday at Israel, which has carried out air strikes on the coastal enclave.
The Iron Dome in Israel – the first missile interceptor of its kind in the world with a 90 percent success rate at bringing down targets – has intercepted thousands of rockets this week.
The most intense fighting in seven years between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups was triggered by weekend unrest at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
What triggered the violence?
Clashes erupted on Friday as Muslims packed the Al-Aqsa mosque to pray during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Violence had been building in the Holy City and occupied West Bank for the previous week.
Palestinians hurled stones, bottles and fireworks at Israeli police who fire rubber bullets and stun grenades. The site is sacred to Jews as the location of two biblical-era temples.
More than 220 people, mostly Palestinians, were wounded.
On Saturday, prayers at the mosque compound are held peacefully but violence flares elsewhere in east Jerusalem.
Some 121 Palestinians are wounded overnight, many hit by rubber bullets and stun grenades, the Palestinian Red Crescent says.
Israeli police say 17 of its officers are wounded.
Much of the recent unrest stems from the long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers’ decades-old claim infuriated Palestinians.
A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday and risked inflaming tensions further.
On Sunday, the justice ministry delays the hearing in light of “the circumstances”.
Scuffles between Palestinians and Israeli police in east Jerusalem continue overnight into Sunday.
In the evening, Israeli police again face off against mostly young Palestinians at several locations in east Jerusalem.
Some 331 Palestinians are wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, in renewed clashes between Palestinians and police at the mosque on Monday ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s capture of Jerusalem in 1967.
The latest flare-up of violence threatens to escalate into an even bloodier conflict like the devastating 50-day war in 2014.
Around 1,500 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israeli cities since hostilities escalated between Hamas and Israel earlier in the week, Israel’s army said.
British Airways cancelled its flights to and from Tel Aviv on Thursday, the latest international carrier to avoid flying to Israel.
“The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” BA said.
United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines all cancelled flights between the United States and Tel Aviv on Wednesday.